Thursday, November 9, 2017

A boatload of sewing projects

Last year, Nick and I tackled a few projects on the boat to make it more comfortable. This season, we got out the sewing machine and tackled a few more. Unless you have a boat and are considering these projects, they aren't likely all that interesting, so I'll skip right through the details.

The first project that we tackled were side panels for our bimini top. We wanted these panels to help block wind and rain in the cockpit, where we spend a significant amount of time when we are on the water. The problem we were hoping to solve was that the cockpit benches weren't at all protected from the elements, so even a light rain would drive us down below (where it was often much warmer). In fall and spring, the side panels help cut down on the amount of cool breeze coming through the cockpit, where I like to snuggle under a blanket and drink my coffee in the morning or relax under the stars before we head to bed at night.

For this project, I purchased Sunbrella fabric, heavy duty sewing needles and outdoor zippers, UV protected thread, snap fasteners and vinyl window material from a company called Sailrite, which sells high-quality sewing machines and supplies tailored to the boating industry, but useful for all types of sewers and projects. We paid about $250 for the supplies, but it would have cost significantly more to have them made.

The hardest part of the project was getting the measurements right. After some pretty extensive internet searching for a template to follow, we gave up and sketched out a rough pattern, and then crossed our fingers and started to cut all the fabric and vinyl material. The sewing was slow going and sometimes difficult because of the thickness of the Sunbrella canvas and 30-gauge plastic; I often found myself hand turning the wheel, since it was was too much for the machine's motor. And so many needles were broken along the way! Thankfully, I have a heavy duty sewing machine that I inherited from my quilter mother (I had it serviced last year and the technician raved about it's quality and how they no longer make them as sturdy), and both me and the machine came out mostly unscathed. :)

We installed zippers on the old and new panels so they could easily be zipped together and a few small snaps at the bottom to keep it in place.

It took us weeks to sew the panels -- every couple of nights we'd tackle another section, until we finally had one finished, and then used it to replicate the second panel. While there are a few things that I wish I'd done differently, I'm so stinking proud of how they turned out and we make use of them frequently.

With the leftover canvas material we completed two other projects on the boat.

First up were rail cushions. Last summer, Nick plucked a floating blue object out of the water in our marina, which ended up being a rail cushion that had fallen off another boat. Once we figured out what it was, we started making plans to sew our own to so we could rest more comfortably on the back rail while at the helm. (P.S. it took a few weeks, but we did eventually find the cushion's owner when they sailed passed our docked boat)!

While underway, Nick and I often take hour long shifts at the helm and leaning on the metal rail bar for that long can get pretty uncomfortable. We followed the basics of this video to create our rail cushions, which are basically a fabric outer cover fitted with a Velcro closure along the length and a pocket on each end threaded with a cord to snug it to the railing.

Nick, a master of many trades, helped me measure, cut and sew a cover one evening and the next day, I came home to a perfectly sewed second cover for the other side of the boat, which he'd tackled on his day off of work. For padding, we simply measured and cut down slit foam pipe insulation.

The last project we tackled was a new cover for our outboard dinghy engine, to protect it from sun rays and dust. The engine came with a black cover (matching our grill cover), but it wasn't sun resistant and slowly faded over time to a dark purple. I used the old engine cover as a template and some leftover cord line from the rail cushions, and for no cost we had ourselves a new engine cover!

Overall, the material for these projects cost us around $250, but the price to have them professionally made would have been three or more times that.

Thankfully that's the end of our sewing projects for a little awhile!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

DIY Bedroom Board and Batten

I mentioned in my last jewelry bookshelf post that Nick and I made one more change to our master bedroom earlier this year, which was to add board and batten to one of the walls.

Our master bedroom already has some nice architectural details, with dormer windows and built-in bookshelves, but I really wanted to add some additional interest and lighten up the wall behind our bed. The main reason was because our fabric headboard is almost the exact same shade of taupe as our wall color.

We bought the bed after we'd moved into the house and painted the room, and we thought the two colors would work well wasn't until after we had the bed in the room that we realized the two colors were a little too close!

Since we like the wall color and aren't motivated enough to repaint the entire room, board and batten was a great solution to add visual interest.

We added board and batten to our dining room a few years ago and the process here was just as simple. In fact, we started this project on a Saturday morning and by Sunday evening the boards were installed, the paint had dried, and we had the bedroom put entirely back together. 


Our first step was to install the top horizontal board, a 1x4 pine board, which we had cut to the length of the wall and installed using a brad nailer. Because nothing is straight in our 95-year-old house, we ended up having to cut the board in two pieces at home because the wall was too bowed and the wood wasn't flexible enough to warp it along the entire span.

To create a small ledge on top, we added a small 1x3 board. Below it we installed trim molding flush with the top of the horizontal board. Once we had the header finished, we moved on to the hardest part of this project: the math for the spacing between the battens (or vertical boards).

While it seems like the math should be easy, trying to 1.) ensure the distance between battens is exact, 2.) avoid electrical and cable wall outlets, and 3.) make sure the boards on either end are equal distance from the wall for visual consistency takes a lot of calculating. Once we finally had a spacing that worked well we marked the lines with blue tape and started cutting our battens.

We cut each batten individually since our old house has settled over time and the lengths can vary by as much as a 1/2 inch and then attached each one to the wall with a brad nailer. Some tutorials recommend gluing the boards to the wall, but we prefer to use a small nail for easier future removal (and no extensive drywall repair).

Once everything was installed, we used wood filler to fill all the nail holes and knots in the wood. Once dry, we sanded the filler to a smooth finish and then vacuumed and wiped it clean with a damp rag. Afterwards, we caulked all the seams where the batten boards meet the wall.

Once everything was dry, we applied a coat of our favorite Zinnser water-based primer along the wall and all the newly installed wood.

After priming, we finished up with two coats of white Glidden paint (a match to the rest of the trim in our house).

The final step was to touch up the taupe paint along the horizontal header.

And that's it! Two days and only about $35 in wood and we had a lighter and brighter room. Nick and I are both happy with how it turned out, and how much brighter and better the wall looks behind our fabric headboard.

Since I've shown only half of our bedroom in the last two posts, I thought I'd share the other side of the room. Below is the view of our room from the hallway; the bed and bookshelves are to the right, and a small bench sits on the left.

Beyond the bench is a very tiny hallway, with a small closet on the left, a full length mirror on the right, and our master bathroom is straight ahead. 

What do you think, does the change fit the rest of the room and make it feel brighter?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

10 years

10 years ago today, my mother, Patricia, took her last breath. She was 56.

After a several year battle, her breast cancer reigned victorious and a heavy grief fell over me and my family. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

DIY: Book Shelf to Jewelry Display

Shortly after we bought our house, Nick and I converted an under-eaves storage space in our bedroom into a closet, since our almost 95-year-old house seriously lacks closet space. I mentioned it before, but I'll say it again: we don't have a single closet on the main floor of our home. Not. one. closet.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A real drag

One of the most frightening experiences that Nick and I have had on our boat happened last summer, while not even sailing, when we dragged anchor during a heavy thunderstorm. The bad thing about boats is that because of things like currents, shifting winds and poor ground holding they just don't stay where you put them. And anchoring isn't as easy as throwing the anchor over the side of the boat. When we anchor, we factor in water depth, wind direction, our boat's free board (or distance from the water line), tide, and anticipated weather conditions to determine how we anchor and how much rode (chain or rope) we let out. And then we pretty much say a prayer...or stay up all night.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

An offshore sailing adventure

I'm so excited to share a recent sailing adventure that Nick and I took in early April. As background, last year we attended a sailing seminar during the annual Annapolis, Maryland sailboat show that featured Andy Schell and Mia Karlsson, a young married couple with a passion for sailing. Andy is a longtime sailor and full of knowledge, which he shares on this podcast, On The Wind. Mia is his delightful, smart and incredibly hardworking first mate. Together they've crossed the Atlantic Ocean and logged more than 50,000 miles of ocean sailing. Nick and I really enjoyed listening to Andy and Mia at the seminar and afterwards started more closely following their sailing podcast and blog.

Monday, April 17, 2017

United for breakfast: Chicken sausage egg scramble recipe

I was on a long United Airlines flight recently (this was before they started kicking passengers off their planes) and was perusing the in-flight menu for snack options when I came across a photo of a really yummy looking egg scramble. Eggs are hands-down my favorite breakfast - I'd choose an egg dish any day over a stack of pancakes or french toast - and while I'm not daring enough to try an egg-based meal on a plane, I did snap a picture of it to recreate at home.

Nick and I made up a simple recipe and prepared this egg scramble Easter morning, and we both really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd share it here as an idea for a great holiday breakfast or brunch recipe to impress guests. The combination of ingredients is unique and it looks as good as it tastes.

    Sunday, March 19, 2017

    Puerto Rico {Trip Report}

    In early December, Nick and I took a somewhat last minute trip to Puerto Rico for a week of sun and relaxing. Flights from D.C. to San Juan, Puerto Rico are direct and relatively cheap (we actually flew there for less than our flights to Wisconsin for the holidays). Given my hectic work travel schedule at the end of the year and the loss of a dear loved one right before the Thanksgiving holiday, we didn't do very much advance trip planning; not over-planning the trip allowed us to enjoy perfectly lazy days slowly exploring Puerto Rico and enjoying the warmth and sunshine of its many beaches.

    Sunday, March 5, 2017

    My favorite things

    Happy 2017! To kick off the new year, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things. These are products I’d buy again in a heartbeat, no questions asked, because they consistently perform. In fact, in many cases, we re-purchased these items for our “home away from home” (aka the boat) because we couldn’t do without them.

    Jojoba oil (pronounced ho-ho-ba)


    I started using jojoba oil about a decade ago, and it’s one of the only personal care products that I’ve consistently used for years. It’s light, unscented and very moisturizing. In winter, I add a few drops to my daytime face lotion, and at night I pat it on top of my night cream to lock in the moisture. In a pinch, it works well as a makeup remover and for dry hands and chapped lips.

    Thursday, December 29, 2016

    Knock, Knock...anyone there?

    I wish I had some grand excuse for my radio silence, but the honest truth is that Nick and I simply spent our summer and fall working, traveling and enjoying our weekends on our sailboat. Alas, we are now landlocked, and I’m back to say hello and happy almost-2017!

    So where did we disappear to for half the year? Well we spent almost every weekend from April through November on the water and had so much fun during our second sailing season now that we had a little bit more experience under our belts. We also had a lot more wind than last summer, which allowed us to use our boat’s engine less and get much more practice with the sails.